The Dorsey Motor Speedway, a Howard County landmark that has featured crack-'em-up demolition derbies and stock car races for more than 35 years, has been sold to a developer who plans to turn the site into a $60 million office park.
"A lot of fans -- I mean three generations of fans -- are really sad about it. They're really tremendously loyal," said Speedway President Donald Meyers.
But the track's strategic location in the bustling I-95 corridor between Baltimore and Washington has made it a prime candidate for development for years. "It was just a matter of time," Meyers said. "The whole corridor in that area is building very rapidly."
Developer Douglas H. Legum, who bought the land, said this week that he plans to erect on the site low- and mid-rise buildings with up to 1.2 million square feet of office space and a 128-room hotel with a restaurant and shops.
The property, on Route 176 about six miles north of Laurel, is heavily wooded, and Legum said he intends to save up to 75 percent of the trees to create a college-campus-like setting at the office park.
"It's very close to other high-tech firms, and that's the kind of firm I hope to see there," Legum said. "The buildings will be sited to follow the natural contours of what really is a very attractive wooded site."
The I-95 corridor, one of the fastest-growing areas in the region, is studded with office and industrial parks, but Howard County officials say demand for office space there is strong and likely to grow stronger now that a local sewer moritorium is over.
The moritorium, caused by a dispute between Howard County and neighboring jurisdictions over sewage capacity at a shared treatment plant, ended last year with the signing of a new allocation agreement.
"The corridor is in the center of 5.5 million people in the Baltimore-Washington region. It offers the best of both markets," said R. Frank Collins, Howard County's director of economic development.
The speedway is a 10-minute drive from both the Baltimore and the Washington Beltway and is less than 10 minutes from busy Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The Route 100 Industrial Park, a 108-acre site next to the speedway, is 75 percent developed, Collins said. Two other smaller industrial parks nearby also are reaching capacity, he said.
"We want to keep a good inventory of available space," Collins added. "Most businesses can't afford the time to buy land subdivide it and build."
Legum is developing three other office and industrial parks in the corridor. The 224-acre Parkway Center and adjacent 40-acre Parkway Center II, off I-295 two miles east of the speedway, contain more than 2.5 million square feet of office space. A 203-acre business park at BWI is being developed for warehouses and light industry.
"The Legum organization has made its first substantial move into Howard, and we're glad to have them," Collins said. "They're willing to take the financial risks, and they attract very good clients."
Because of its zoning, the speedway site could have been developed for heavy industrial uses, Collins noted.
Ironically, Legum is an avid stock-car racing fan who owns and drives his own custom-built racer. However, he indicated that his hobby had no bearing on his decision to buy the track. "I've been talking to them for years; we just finally got together on a price," he said.
The speedway first opened in 1950 when stock-car racing was a major sport in Maryland.